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Social work students take ‘Prompt’ path to new careers

Internships, volunteerism a crucial element of higher education

Friday May 23, 2014


Already well-established in her professional life, and two master’s degrees already under her belt, Angela Curtis-Brown, of Merrillville, is back in school. After adopting her six-year-old son through foster care, the process opened her eyes to a new career option, one in which she feels she can make a difference in the lives of others.

Similarly, Heather Mathews, of DeMotte, currently works as a vascular sonographer. But she has also done volunteer work with adults with disabilities ever since high school, an experience that has led to her desire to also pursue a career in social work.

Both students plan to graduate next May with their master of social work degree from Indiana University Northwest. Mathews hopes to secure a career as a medical social worker in a hospital. Curtis-Brown also sees herself working in a hospital or veterans administration until she can get her own practice off the ground.

As part of their education, Curtis-Brown and Mathews recently completed an internship at Prompt Ambulance Service, in which they received valuable hands-on training that will benefit them in their new careers.

If working for an ambulance service seems a stretch for a social work internship, that’s what Curtis-Brown thought at first, too.

“I was skeptical at first,” she said, “I thought, ‘what does this have to do with social work?’”

She quickly learned, as did Mathews, that Prompt’s role in the community goes much deeper than just dispatching ambulances.

The students visited patients in their homes, doctor’s offices and dialysis centers and evaluated their needs. They completed medical necessity and patient assessment forms.

“The internship was a great opportunity to work with many different populations and provide resources to clients in need,” Mathews said.

Curtis-Brown concurred. She said that the opportunity to see things from a patient’s perspective will definitely help her in her future career and practice.

“I learned a different aspect of social work,” Curtis-Brown said.

Internships and field experience are vital to an education in social work, so the more opportunities one can get, the better. Mathews was also able to intern at a free clinic while earning her bachelor of social work degree at IU Northwest.

“It was a great experience. I learned so much about social work,” Mathews said. “I learned about what resources there are in the area, what programs are out there for people and a lot about income requirements for these programs.”

An additional benefit of the students’ internship with Prompt was the ambulance company’s involvement with Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds houses for those in need.

A young man who had recently become paralyzed needed a wheelchair ramp so that he could return home. His friends had reached out to Prompt for assistance and they quickly called on Habitat to assist.

Curtis-Brown said that helping to build the ramp was one of the highlights of her internship. She recalled how rewarding it was to see the resident come home for the first time and see the ramp, which clearly eased his burden.

Mathews and Curtis-Brown plan to take the exam to become licensed social workers once they graduate and they agree that the social work program at IU Northwest has prepared them well for the exam, as well as the rigors, and rewards, of their new career.

“Although this program is fast-paced,” Curtis-Brown said, “if you apply yourself, you can be successful. The key to my success is studying and maintaining constant communication with my professors as well as my advisor.”

Mathews is proud to be going into her final year with an impressive 3.9 grade point average.

“The Department of Social Work is full of great professors who truly want their students to learn and care about the field of social work,” Mathews said.

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